Drug adherence is a perennial problem, and of course, drug affordability is a big contributor.
“Patients receive prescriptions and either don’t take them or don’t refill them because they find them to be too expensive or they feel asymptomatic,” says Bernard Tyrrell, associate dean, pharmacy and industry relations, Keck Graduate Institute, a private graduate school. “Antibiotics, drugs with a short course of therapy, however, might be an exception.”
He says mail order improves access to drugs for chronic diseases, but patients often don’t understand how to take the medication correctly. “Mail delivery creates an impersonal relationship,” he says.
He places some responsibility for the nonadherence problem on pharmacists. He says they could help reconcile a patient’s regimen to ensure drugs are taken correctly.
Kelly Ann Barnes, vice president, pharmacy verification and information for PharmacyChecker.com, which verifies U.S. and international online pharmacies and compares prescription drug prices, agrees that cost is a major driver of nonadherence.
“There are new factors affecting drugs today—higher prices, company mergers, and higher cost generics that often are no longer low-cost alternatives to branded drugs,” she says. “Not taking medications is a revolving issue with many consequences.”
Like Tyrrell, she says pharmacists are in the best position to remedy the problem.
Karla Anderson, partner, PwC an advisory and tax service firm, says “a new role” is needed for retail pharmacies, helping them become an integral part of established healthcare. “Now retail pharmacies can’t just be convenient; they also have to prove value by committing to finding solutions to pharmacy challenges, connecting to patients, and improving engagement and partnering with other healthcare stakeholders,” she says.